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Is Detroit Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

Is Detroit Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

Detroit is one of America’s most iconic cities. The motor city is widely known as the birthplace of the modern automobile, but it also has a rich music scene known for its Motown sound and underground techno scene. 

Detroit also features world-class museums with works from Van Gogh, John Singer-Sargent, Degas, and more. And if you’re looking for food and drink, Detroit has a vibrant craft beer culture and dozens of laid-back and high-profile restaurants.

Detroit has a smaller tourism industry than other American cities like New York City or San Francisco because of its high crime rate.

Violence and property crime are prevalent in Detroit, Michigan, but luckily (or unluckily depending on who you are) it is concentrated in the suburbs, away from tourist destinations. 

However, crime still exists even in Detroit’s safest neighborhoods. Still, tourists can safely experience Detroit if they follow a few common-sense rules and study the city’s layout before visiting.

Is Detroit Safe to Visit in 2022?

Riverwalk along the Detroit River for a piece titled Is Detroit Safe to Visit

Linda Parton/Shutterstock

If you stick to the city’s waterfront areas, Detroit is safe to visit. Outside of the waterfront, both violence and property crime become more common.

Like any metropolitan area in the US, crime rates can vary drastically even over short distances; a safe block may be one or two streets away from a dangerous one. The most common safety concern for tourists visiting Detroit is petty property crimes.

Pickpockets, bag snatching, and general theft are common in Detroit, even in areas that are considered safe. Petty criminals often target distracted or unaware tourists, so stay aware of your surroundings.

In addition to petty crime, tourists may experience violent crime. The most violent areas of Detroit maintain their reputations because they’re removed from the city’s economic and social resources.

While this fact is depressing for residents, tourists will naturally avoid the worst areas of Detroit because they don’t offer people any enjoyable amenities. Still, neighborhood borders in Detroit are fluid.

Tourists may unwittingly wander into sub-ideal neighborhoods exploring safe neighborhoods such as Downtown. Familiarize yourself with the boundaries of neighborhoods in Detroit before leaving your accommodations.

Pay particular attention to street names, as the city lacks natural landmarks. Tourists should also be wary of overly friendly strangers. Scams are somewhat common in Detroit.

Disreputable vendors, compromised ATMs, and crooked cabbies are some scams tourists should remain aware of while experiencing Detroit. When possible, read online reviews about places of interest on TripAdvisor or Reddit. When in doubt, always trust your intuition.

Property Crime in Detroit

Thief stealing the wallet of a person at a train station for a piece titled Is Detroit Safe

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The most common crimes in Detroit are property crimes. Of all property crimes in Detroit, tourists are most likely to experience petty theft. Petty theft is considered the theft of valuables whose combined value is less than $1,000. 

Of course, some items, such as a watch or necklace from a deceased relative are priceless, which is why it is best to leave any item of monetary or sentimental value at home or your accommodation in Detroit.

The chances of becoming a victim of property crime in Detroit is 1 in 30. For perspective, this crime rate means that of the 15.9 million people that visit Detroit annually, 530,000 tourists experienced a property crime.

The true number of tourists that experience property crime in Detroit is unknown; no metric exists to measure tourist crime rates. In reality, the number of tourists that experience petty crime in Detroit is fewer than 530,000, as petty crime rates are not consistent throughout the city.

However, this sampling does demonstrate that tourists should not underestimate the danger of Detroit. Tourists can limit their chances of experiencing petty crime by following a few simple rules.

Tips to Avoid Petty Crime

  • Use a strap to secure expensive items to your person. You will likely use your phone to navigate the city and stay in touch with your friends and family. A phone strap can dissuade opportunist criminals from snatching your phone. Similarly, a camera strap or wallet chain can prevent a criminal from completing a petty theft.
  • Keep valuables in your front pocket. It is harder for criminals to steal property stored in your front pockets.
  • Remain alert. Distractions abound in Detroit. Busy streets, beautiful murals, and stunning architecture are just some of the distractions vying for your attention in Detroit. Petty criminals are more likely to victimize people who appear distracted, so keep your eyes on the street and remain aware of who is around you.
  • Mitigate the damage. If you are the unfortunate victim of a petty crime, do not exacerbate the problem. Comply with the demands of the criminal. Detroit is a violent city. The last thing you want is to compound the crimes committed against you by engaging the criminal.

Violent Crime in Detroit

Tourists should also pay attention to violent crime. The FBI’s most recent crime data reported over 13,000 violent crimes in Detroit. These crimes included murder, manslaughter, and assault.

While most violent crime occurs between resident gang members, tourists should know that gang violence often leads to collateral damage. The most effective way to avoid violent crime is to steer clear of the areas known for violent crime.

In Detroit, this means sticking to the waterfront neighborhoods. The second most effective way to avoid violent crime is to avoid engaging with strangers.

Verbal assaults are generally harmless but serve as a way for locals to gauge your comfortability in an area. The more you react to verbal harassment, the higher your chances of experiencing violent crime are.

Since Detroit’s crime rates are so bad, the Detroit police have launched an app that tracks crime in the city. The app, React, is updated regularly and can help tourists avoid dangerous areas.

Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods

Anonymous person walking along a sidewalk in a bad neighborhood with boarded up homes for a piece on whether Detroit is safe

Real Window Creative/Shutterstock

Avoiding bad neighborhoods in Detroit is more straightforward than in other metropolitan cities in the US. In Detroit, most safe neighborhoods line the Detroit River. As long as tourists stick near the water, they will be safe. 

However, there are times when tourists may venture inland. In these cases, tourists should take additional precautionary measures, like traveling in groups and leaving valuables at home. 

But, there are also some areas that should be avoided at all costs. Some of the worst neighborhoods in Detroit are Belmont, Fiskhorn, Von Steuban, Warrendale, and Franklin Park.

Belmont

The neighborhood of Belmont comprises a mere 32 blocks but is one of the most dangerous areas of Detroit. Belmont is a small, central neighborhood far from Detroit’s metropolitan area.

Recent data shows Belmont’s crime rate is nearly 500% higher than the national average. The boundaries of Belmont are Greenfield Rd. to the west, Puritan Ave. to the north, Hubbell Ave. to the west, and Fenkell Ave. to the south.

Fiskhorn

Fiskhorn is another small central Detroit neighborhood that tourists should avoid. Fiskhorn comprises 27 city blocks and is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Detroit.

The average crime rate in Fiskhorn is 431% higher than the national average. The boundaries of Fiskhorn are Greenfield Rd. to the west, Joy Ave. to the North, Hubbell Ave to the East, and Tireman Ave. to the south.

Von Steuban

Von Steuban is a moderately sized, east-central Detroit neighborhood on the border of disputed gang territory. The average crime rate in Von Steuban is 443% higher than the national average.

The boundaries of Von Steuban are Teppert St. to the west, Seven Mile E to the north, Joann Ave. to the east, and E McNichols Rd. to the south.

Warrendale

Warrendale is a western suburb of Detroit, far from any tourist point of interest. Tourists are highly unlikely to find themselves in Warrendale.

Still, the area has an astronomically high crime rate, 430% higher than the national average, so it’s worth mentioning. The borders of Warrendale are Greenfield E Rd, Joy Rd., and the city limits of Detroit.

Franklin Park

Franklin Park is another western suburb of Detroit. Franklin Park is due north of Warrendale. The area has an average crime rate 400% higher than the national average. The borders of Franklin Park are the Detroit city limits, Joy Rd., and the Southfield Highway.

Areas that are still safe to visit, but require tourists to exercise an increased level of caution, include North Corktown, University South, Brush Park, Eastern Market, McDougall Hunt East, Foch, and Mack.

Tourists should at least familiarize themselves with North Corktown, University South, and Eastern Market, as these areas do feature cultural attractions.

Things to Consider

City tram going downtown with a colorful exterior during the gorgeous Fall season

Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock

In addition to crime, there are a few other things tourists should consider when visiting Detroit.

Do:

  • Visit Detroit in late spring or early fall. Navigating the city during the winter can put tourists at risk of motor accidents and makes travel on foot more difficult. Similarly, summers in Detroit tend to be extreme. Hot temperatures can make outdoor activities in Detroit unpleasant and, on exceptionally hot days, dangerous.
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance. Although violent crime is less prevalent in tourist areas, petty criminals such as bag snatchers and pickpockets prowl do pose a threat to tourists.
  • Hide your stuff. Keep your valuables in your accommodation to avoid attracting undue attention.
  • Research your routes. Map routes to and from your accommodation when seeing the sights to avoid dangerous areas.

Don’t:

  • Venture into the suburbs. Tourists stick out in the suburbs, even in the safe ones. The last thing you want to do in a violent city is draw attention to yourself.
  • Travel alone on foot at night. Travel in a group when possible. When traveling at night, arrange a rideshare or cab ahead of time.
  • Socialize with strangers on the street. Be friendly, but avoid street conversations. Detroit requires visitors to be alert at all times. Strangers on the street roping you into conversation are either lonely, want to test your steel, or are hoping to distract you. To avoid unwanted interactions, walk with a purpose.

Frequently Asked Questions

Gorgeous view of downtown Detroit

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Below are some frequently asked questions about visiting Motor City.

Is it safe to walk around downtown Detroit?

It is safe to walk around Downtown Detroit, especially during the day. Downtown Detroit has much less violent crime and theft than other neighborhoods but still experiences its fair share of small-time crime.

Pickpockets and muggings are not uncommon in downtown Detroit. Visitors should limit the number of valuables they travel with to avoid attracting undue attention. Visitors should also exercise additional caution when walking around at night.

What should I avoid in Detroit?

There are a lot of dangerous areas in Detroit. Tourists should avoid Belmont, Fiskhorn, Von Steuban, Warrendale, and Franklin Park. Unfortunately, there are more neighborhoods to avoid than visit in Detroit.

Even so, there are safe, fun areas in Detroit. Tourists visiting Detroit can safely travel to Downtown, Midtown, Corktown, West Village, Belle Isle, Eastern Market, and Greektown. 

Is it safe to go to Detroit?

In general, it is safe to visit parts of Detroit. After all, the city is home to more than half a million people. But, if you have to ask whether or not Detroit is safe, you may be better suited to visit another city like New York.

Detroit consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous cities in America. Detroit likely won’t bother you if you’re from a large city, but people from rural areas may find a trip to Detroit more stressful than it’s worth.

What part of Detroit is dangerous?

In Detroit, the suburbs are more dangerous than the metropolitan areas. The disproportionate amount of crime in suburban areas compared to urban areas is partly due to the difficulty of patrolling the sprawling suburbs.

Tourists visiting Detroit should avoid the 48205 zip code in Detroit. The zipcode lacks any tourist destinations, but stumbling into an unknown neighborhood during vacation is possible. 

The 48205 zip code is colloquially referred to as “4820-die” because of the high rate of violent crime in the area. The nickname alone is enough reason to avoid this impoverished neighborhood plagued by violence and crime.

Is Detroit Dangerous?

Detroit is dangerous. Locals may claim that the city is safe, but on the whole, the city has some of the worst property and violent crime rates in the country. Of course, what the locals mean is parts of Detroit are safe.

Practice kindness and immerse yourself in the environment to avoid confrontation. When you blend in you’ll be less likely to draw undue attention to yourself.

For your safety, stick to the Downtown and Midtown neighborhoods of Detroit. These areas have a dense concentration of tourist activities and are generally safe from the horrific violent crime of the impoverished suburbs.

So, Is Detroit Safe to Visit? 

Detroit, Michigan offers tourists a mix of modern, world-class amenities and Americana charm. New businesses and venues are popping up all over the Detroit waterfront.

And the city’s reputation for crime means food and entertainment prices are relatively low compared to other major US cities like Washington, DC, and New York City.

For a unique traveling experience full of new and old American culture, consider a trip to Detroit. Happy travels!